Via a slightly breathless article in the Washington Post, I came across a great approach to homelessness: Housing First:
A model so simple children could grasp it, so cost-effective fiscal hawks loved it, so socially progressive liberals praised it… Give homes for the homeless
There’s a terrific briefing from Shelter on what Housing First is (pdf); it’s key components are as follows:
- Immediate (or relatively immediate), permanent accommodation is provided to service users directly from the streets, without the requirement of assessed housing readiness
- No preconditions of treatment access or engagement are made (housing first, not treatment first)
- Comprehensive support services are offered and brought to the service user
- A harm-reduction approach is taken to dependency issues and abstinence is not required. However, the support agency must be prepared to support residents’ commitments to recovery
- Support can ‘float away’ or return as needs arise and the housing is maintained even if the resident leaves the programme, for example through imprisonment or hospital admission.
In the US, a four-year study found that the Housing First approach led to 88% housing retention rate, compared to a 47% retention rate for treatment first models. A shorter UK study of nine housing services (pdf) has found a range of excellent outcomes, too, including housing retention, improved mental and physical health, some reductions in drug and alcohol use, some positive evidence of social integration, and some reductions in anti-social behaviour.
It’s interesting to me the parallels between the housing first model (get people a house, then support them) and the Individual Placement & Support employment model for people with mental health problems (get people a job, then support them).
This is intriguing stuff, and I’ll be keeping a lookout for more on this.